As The Crow Flies: My Bushman Experience with 31 Battalion - Delville Linford with Al J. Venter
As a relatively recent military campaign, Operation Savannah entered the annals of South African military tradition four decades ago. Though there have been several books published about this ‘bare bones’ strike force that marched almost unimpeded a quarter the way across the African continent, few are aware of the significant role played during the course of these hostilities by a fragmented Bushman unit led by one of the most enigmatic personalities to emerge in uniform since the end of World War II.
Until now, Colonel Delville Linford has had very little to say about his role as commander of Combat Group Alpha, or of that played by his Bushmen soldiers. In this volume he allows us a peek under the covers, not only how this tiny combat force operated, but also many ‘behind the screens’ machinations which explain how the unit was formed.
Following the independence of Angola from Portugal, a significant segment of that country’s Bushman community crossed the border into what was then still South West Africa – Namibia today – and sought refuge with the South Africans. He goes on to tell us a lot about the Bushman people themselves: the nature of their society, tribal traditions, bush-craft, customs that have become ingrained with time, historical fears, life in the wild, tracking ‒ as well as much else about a historical culture that goes back millennia. Together with many of Colonel Linford’s empathetic observations of these often- intriguing ‘little’ people, all go towards making for a rather fascinating read.
A hallmark volume with an introduction by General Constand Viljoen, Colonel Linford offers us – for the first time ‒ his own ‘warts and all’ report, not only of the legendary 31 Battalion but also of his career in the South African Army.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cmdt Delville Linford was the South African Army’s last liaison officer at Serpa Pinto from April 1973 to July 1974. Because of his knowledge of Angola and its people, he was tasked by Brigadier Constand Viljoen to establish a base in the western Caprivi to accommodate, equip and train these Bushman soldiers so that they could help to protect the South West African border against Swapo. With the help of six national servicemen and 39 black troops, Linford established Camp Alpha. Combat Group Alpha participated in Operation Savannah from October 1975 to January 1976 after which the company was named 31 Battalion and operated in south-east Angola and Zambia.
ABOUT THE CO-AUTHOR
AL J. VENTER, now living in the UK, has written over 40 war books, including Allah’s Bomb, Iran’s Nuclear Option, and Iraqi War Debrief, War Dog: Fighting Other People’s Wars, Barrel of a Gun: A War Correspondent’s Misspent Moments in Combat, War Stories by Al J. Venter and Friends, Gunship Ace – The Wars of Neall Ellis, Helicopter Pilot and Mercenary and African Stories by Al J. Venter and Friends.
Softcover, 336 pages with b/w photos.
Digital Painting: © Ziggy Hentze